Double-U Double-U Review

If you caught my summer preview post you probably picked up that one of my downtime goals is to lose some weight, not to be skinny or pretty or anything, but to be more comfortable traveling and sight-seeing. I decided to take advantage of a deal and try Weight Watchers, which is for some reason calling themselves “WW” in an attempt to rebrand themselves as a lifestyle as opposed to a weight loss plan. I’m not joking, I had to call into customer service about an app problem, and the agent said “thank you for calling double-u double-u” like I didn’t know I was calling fucking WEIGHT WATCHERS, but that’s only part of the story.

I’ve been using the plan for about a month and a half, and while I have been able to lose about 5 pounds, I’ve discovered some issues that might be something you would want to know about if you were considering some help in this kind of endeavor.

The basic idea of WW is the same as it’s always been: you get a set of daily points based on your gender, current weight, age, and a few other attributes. In addition to these points that reset daily, you get a set of weekly points that give you a little wiggle room on the daily or help with eating out or splurging that would take you way beyond your daily allotment. If you exercise you can also earn FitPoints, which you can choose to use to bolster your balance, or avoid using altogether to help boost your weight loss.

These were in place when I used the program in 2006 to lose almost 50 pounds. What was nice then was that it was relatively easy to gauge how many points an item was worth. The general rule of thumb was that 50 calories roughly worth 1 point, with higher fiber or protein values bringing the point value down, while higher fat values increased the average. Plus there were guidelines about what you should eat: dairy, servings of fruits and veggies, a basic amount of water, and you could check these off and work them into your day.

I have watched the plans slowly change over the years. First everything you ate had a point value that you had to track. Then fruits and veggies became zero points, and how your daily points were calculated changed. Then what a point meant changed, requiring the purchase of a point calculator or you could use the app/website. And then Oprah came on the scene, talking about how much she loved bread and cauliflower pizza dough and the plan changed yet again to include about 200 zero point foods, expanded to include fruits, veggies, seafood, boneless skinless chicken breast, 99% fat free ground turkey/chicken, and eggs.

At first I was kind of excited by the large number of things I could eat that I didn’t necessarily have to track. But something about it nagged at the back of my mind – how could we just call these things zero points when they have nutritional value and calorie content? So I started using the plan and discovered a few things very quickly.

First, this plan bases point values on saturated fat, sugar, and protein. Calories aren’t even used, nor is fiber. At first this made sense to me given the current research on sugar consumption and trans/saturated fats. What didn’t make sense to me was how 230 calories of M&Ms could equal 12 points, 30% of my daily allotment. I know none of this is an exact science but gosh that’s…that’s aggressive. The commercials love to say that it’s such a flexible plan, you can eat anything! Which I guess is true, you COULD eat M&Ms, but the point structure sure as shit is gonna scare you away from doing that.

Which leads me to my second point: ALL IS EGGS. Holy shit, every WW recipe, community recommendation, whatever uses 9782347263847239 eggs. I am convinced that anything you could ever do with eggs has been discovered by current WW members trying to stretch their points as far as they can go. And the pictures of these recipes – god it looks like an eggplant shat out a terrible skillet scrambler in the most terrible nightmare diner. “Look at this amazing meal, and so tasty!” Bullshit Carol.

And third. You think Facebook or Instagram is a nightmare? Well then come on over to the “Connect” section of the WW app or website. WOW. If it isn’t people posting side by sides with the after picture filtered so hard that Barbies (holy unrealistic skinny waist batman) and anime characters (HUGE EYES WOW) would be jealous, it’s men paying to use the app to pick up chicks or EVERYONE IS CHRISTIAN AND PRAYING FOR EACH OTHER PRAISE JEEBUS. I have seen more juuuuuust almost naked pictures of people than I ever saw anywhere else, especially dudes leaving their junk just out of view. It’s a festering pit of everything weight loss/lifestyle changing shouldn’t be, but exists in WW.

So this week I started using the free app MyFitnessPal alongside WW to see how they compare. The thing I like about MFP is that you can set different nutritional goals. Does your doctor think you need more protein? You can set that daily value and track towards it. Need to lower your sodium intake for blood pressure or other reasons? You can set that limit too. It takes the weird point calculation system, simplifies it, and makes it very individualized. And it tracks with Fitbit, which is a plus for me.

My reasoning for losing this weight is not to get super skinny, but to be in better shape and be more comfortable in a plane seat. I said at the beginning that I wasn’t going to compromise my happiness or foods I enjoy to reach this goal, I was going to exercise more to help bridge the gap and just eat smaller portions. Only a month and a half on WW made me feel like I was in an egg cult that was slowly brainwashing me away from bread and cheese. That’s not the goal here. So I think I’m going to call it on the WW experiment and stick just to MFP. I shouldn’t have to pay $13 a month for something I can get for free that’s more about what my body needs.

Don’t get me wrong, Weight Watchers used to work for me. I felt like I could eat what I wanted and I learned how to balance things I needed to eat with things I wanted to eat. I honestly don’t think the program is that kind of positive force anymore. If I were you, I would find a doctor you trust, a nutritionist that’s more about health than skinny, and an app you don’t have to pay to use before you try to become baptized by the egg masters. Skip WW, it’s not worth it.

Magic for Liars

Magic for Liars

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey was provided to me by Macmillan-Tor/Forge and Tor Books via NetGalley as a digital ARC in return for an honest review. Magic For Liars went on sale on June 4, 2019 and is currently available for purchase.

Magic For Liars is the story of a pair of sisters, one magical and one not, who took very different paths in life: one a Theoretical Magic teacher at a prestigious magic school and the other a beat-down private investigator. When Ivy gets the call to investigate a magical murder at the school where her sister Tabitha teaches, the story takes us through Ivy’s struggle to connect past with present to solve the mystery.

It has a promising start. That dark, down on your luck kind of opening that any private eye kind of flick might have. I settled in, ready for a dark and dingy kind of tale. What I got was a whole lot of nothing through 75% of the book, where I finally decided to stop and move on to something else.

This book stays at one volume level the entire time. Ivy is endlessly interviewing students and then nothing happens. She confronts her sister and seems to make headway about their past as rivals and their magic/non magic issues, and then nothing happens. A teacher is dead, and while we meet many interesting characters and might have suspicions about a few, the tension never ratchets up enough where you feel like we might be headed toward a solution, which would then keep you reading to find out more. I have other things to read, other things to do, either give me something to nibble on or stop wasting my time.

It was really disappointing. It was a cool idea but difficult to pull off without any reveals or wrong turns or accusations in a world where Harry Potter already exists. Sorry fam, it’s a thumbs down from me out of sheer boredom.

The Wedding Party

The Wedding Party

The Wedding Date (The Wedding Date #1)

The Proposal (The Wedding Date #2)

The Wedding Party was received as a physical ARC from the publisher at the 2019 AWP Conference Book Fair. Scheduled date of publication is July 16, 2019 and preorders are currently accepted wherever books are sold.

There are four main elements to a Jasmine Guillory novel: an unexpected meeting, an intense physical connection, a miscommunication/makeup resolution, and some form of comfort food.

The Wedding Date had Alexa and Drew and doughnuts. The Proposal had Carlos and Nik and cupcakes. The Wedding Party presents us with Theo and Maddie and pizza.

The formula worked well in the first two books, mostly because the sex scenes were so hot and intense, and there was a pretty clear obstacle to the that the protagonists would need to eventually overcome to get to their happily ever after: Alexa and Drew had distance, and Carlos and Nik had Nik’s issues with safety and commitment. Plus the comfort food, there to give the audience another sense of connection and luxury, was more of a snack or dessert nature, something that we have as a guilty pleasure or as accompaniment to a meal. The cherry on top, as it were.

With the third and final installment of the trilogy, Maddie and Theo already know each other and have been rivals for Alexa’s attention. It’s an enemies to lovers type story that kind of deflates as it goes on. When they spend more meaningful time together and help each other out, it takes the teeth out of the enemies thing and just makes it a relationship. They decide to hide their escapades from Alexa, which seems really disingenuous considering they carry on for something like 8 months (spoiler alert, she notices).

The sex scenes in this book were really lacking. We see the start and the morning after, but none of the creamy center. Kind of ‘he spread her legs and dipped out of sight and she moaned – CUT TO THE NEXT MORNING THEY ARE MAKING COFFEE’ and I was disappointed. There was one scene where he went “in to the hilt” on the first thrust and then the scene ended and we were waking up the next morning. Also, Theo seems to have condoms stashed EVERYWHERE: his car, his desk, his bedside table, the kitchen, his pocket, in his ear, his wallet – I mean I get representing safe sex but this has got to be believable and it was NOT believable that in the middle of the livingroom Theo found a condom between the couch cushions, waggled his eyebrows, and then went to town. I found myself thinking, wait, where could that condom possibly have come from and why would he have had it stashed there? – and that really takes one out of the action.

Not only was the sex lackluster, the frequency with which they order pizza gave me heartburn and I wasn’t even the one eating it. “I’ll pick up a pizza!” “Let’s order a pizza!” “OMG I’m so hungry, let’s have Theo pop over with a pizza!” It was repetitive and only made me feel sorry for all of them. Honestly guys, your body starts to break down in your thirties and there was no way these characters, all in their thirties and gainfully employed, were eating this much pizza.

The ending was pretty formulaic, which was fine, but overall this last book did not wow me for all the reasons I’ve listed. If you’ve already read the first two you should read this one too, it has its enjoyable moments, but honestly if you haven’t read any of them yet you could read the first two and be fine skipping the third.

The Heart Forger (The Bone Witch #2)

The Heart Forger

The Bone Witch (#1)

The first novel of this series, The Bone Witch, has been sitting in the back corners of my mind for a long time. The book itself was good, but not ‘blow my socks off’ good, so I didn’t run to the sequel right away. But it was good, and so every so often I would think back to it and wonder what happened next.

The Heart Forger tells its story the same way The Bone Witch did: alternating between the perspective of a Bard (whose identity we do not know) and Tea’s point of view. The Bard’s experience is happening now, while Tea’s is the story leading up to the current situation. You might think this wouldn’t work, especially because the Bard’s story often spoils things that haven’t happened yet in Tea’s timeline, but I was surprised by how much I liked it, and it made me read faster to find out how these relationships and choices came about.

Dark forces are at play across all the kingdoms, and the enemy we only know as the Faceless are discovered to be attempting the forging of shadowglass, a heartsglass that would make its wearers immortal. To do this they need certain ingredients that would connect them back to a mythical trio: The Blade that Soars, Dancing Wind, and Hollow Knife of the darashi orun, a dance/play that is traditionally performed every year in the kingdom. The band of asha, deathseekers, and friends travel around the kingdoms trying to discover what is going on and to thwart the efforts of their enemies.

I really love revenge stories, and Tea’s use of her powers to get revenge on these Faceless and bring the kingdoms back into some semblance of balance, possibly at great cost to herself, is totally my jam. This story is full of strong women and supportive men and reading it was smooth as silk in terms of character building, plot progression, and magic use. The setting is beautifully described, and I felt like I was there sitting next to the asha in some scenes.

Be careful reading the last 100 pages or so in public. One death scene is described so emotionally that I had to fight my own urge to cry. Just one more friend to avenge with her pack of daeva. Go get ’em Tea, I’m rooting for you.

It’s Gonna Be June

With only 3 school days remaining in this year (and a half day for teachers only to check out) it’s time to wind down and think about what is upcoming in the summer of 2019. Getting through these last days is somehow both easy and difficult, and thinking about what there is to look forward to helps to pass the time.

This summer is a frugal summer with a trip to Paris on the horizon as well as efforts to save up a house down payment. There are no plans to go anywhere or do anything outside of visiting the in-laws and going to the beach. Activities to keep boredom away will include ZooTampa, a local Ethiopian restaurant, the Dali Museum, and probably a few sessions of bowling. The backyard pool and patio are also going to get more use this year, having been cleaned from top to bottom and decorated with lights.

The nearest branch of the county library system offers reservable study room space to library patrons. Rooms can be reserved up to six days in advance for up to two hours per session. This is where the majority of the novel will be revised and rewritten this summer, away from the distractions of home. Monday through Friday reservations should allow for significant progress on a schedule so that the end of summer can bring an end to this round of revisions and yield a more finished product.

A combination of Weight Watchers (WW) and daily gym visits will hopefully result in some weight loss and increased strength and endurance. Interval training with the intent to return to running on a regular basis is one of the goals of this process. Another is fitting in an airplane seat without discomfort and walking around Paris without being exhausted.

Books I’ll be reading this summer:

Library Reads

Digital ARCs via NetGalley

Stuff I Own

 

The Poppy War (The Poppy War #1)

The Poppy War

The Poppy War is a book about tests and schools and usually those are totally my jam. Runin (Rin for short) is a war orphan from the second poppy war. Her foster parents tell her at age 14 that she will be marrying a much older man once she turns 16, so she makes a deal with her tutor and her foster parents that if she take’s the country’s placement test and tests into the tuition-free military academy, that she can leave and not have to marry. She studies and memorizes and crams for two straight years and manages to score high enough to place into the Sinegard Academy.

When she arrives she experiences what you would expect from rich, pampered kids who are trained from birth to come to this academy – her skin is darker and she’s from one of the poorest provinces – they think she cheated to get in or that she was let in to make the test seem fair, and she would be sent home after the Trials that all first years must pass. She works hard and discovers a unique power within her along the way, something that hasn’t been seen since the end of the Second Poppy War. Rin can meditate and reach the Pantheon of gods to call on their power and use it as her own, but with a price.

It’s a very enjoyable book through about the first hald. It gives glimpses into Chinese history through a fantasy story and map, and I find that it’s much easier to learn things that way, or at least to prompt questions that I can ask the husband, who is am expert in world history topics. The story about the school is neat, and the topics they study are interesting. I found myself thinking of The Name of the Wind as I was reading this book: poor person tests into school they shouldn’t belong at, must impress a particular professor in order to remain at school, gets banned from a certain aspect of the school so they have to adjust and train themselves, trains to discover something/skill/knowledge people thought was long dead, now has a dangerous power they don’t know how to control, etc. etc.

My only confusion came when Rin’s motivation abruptly shifted from “be the best I can be so I don’t have to marry or have kids” to “REVENGE.” Like, revenge against who? It was such a fast shift in her narrative that it was like hitting a brick wall in her character development. The only way a revenge story works is if I feel like I want revenge too on the character’s behalf. I get her thirst for power over her own destiny, but I feel like the hunger for revenge isn’t earned in the plot.

Also the second half of the book gets bogged down in a new war that we only see through Rin’s perspective, and most of that time is spent agonizing over her powers and whether or not she should access them. I found myself getting bored toward the end, if only because war is pretty boring on the page without some kind of action or fighting. When most of it was just hanging around the camp being angsty about gods, I lost interest. The most interesting developments happen in the last twenty pages, but the fact that they came after such a down period made them less exciting. I won’t spoil it for you, but by the end I didn’t have anyone I was rooting for, barely understood what was going on, and just wanted to send the book back to the library.

I have the sequel as an advanced reader copy, so I’ll let you all know if the series gets better in book 2. If you’ve read my reviews for awhile though, you know that rarely happens, as book 2 tends to lag even worse than book 1. There was enough in this first installment to get me to read the entire story, but now I wish I could go back and undo the reading of it so I could try something else. Take from that what you will.

The Ruin of Kings (A Chorus of Dragons #1)

The Ruin of Kings

I wanted to write about this one because this is the fastest I have ever put down a book. I read the short introductory chapter and thought, okay, a prisoner telling their warden a story, great let’s go. But then I turned the page and the FOOTNOTES started. And I’m sorry fam, but if I’m going to read a book for fun, especially a fantasy novel, there is no faster way to get me to take that shit back to the library than to make it look like a research paper. Also it’s difficult to keep the flow of the reading going when I have to constantly eyeball back and forth from the action to the side info.

NOOOOOOOPE.